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STRATEGIC AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT
Overview

Strategic Air Traffic Management (SATM) is a complex area of research involving the disciplines of operations research, guidance and control, human factors, and software engineering. SATM decisions are made by hundreds of human operators and involve tens of thousands of aircraft, en route air traffic control centers, the Federal Aviation Administration's System Command Center, and many airline operation centers. The approximate time horizon for SATM is from 20 minutes to 365 days, which can be further broken out as Dynamic Airspace Configuration (about 1 day to 365 days) and Traffic Flow Management (about 30 minutes to 8 hours). The Aviation Systems Division conducts foundational research in the development of algorithms, models, and concepts for mitigating imbalances in the forecasted air traffic demand and airspace capacity, while accommodating user-preferences and maximizing system throughput and efficiency.

Traffic Flow Management

Screenshot of a NAS air traffic simulation using the Future ATM Concepts Evaluation Tool (FACET)
Future ATM Concepts Evaluation Tool

The time horizon for Traffic Flow Management (TFM) can be further broken out as Regional Flow Management (about 20 min to 2 hours) and National Flow Management (about 1 to 8 hours). Candidate flow control strategies at the regional-level would include tactical rerouting and time-based metering, while strategies at the national-level would include strategic rerouting and departure control procedures. The two major impediments to achieving optimal regional- and national-level flow control strategies are the accurate prediction of available/usable national airspace system (NAS) resources and air traffic demand. 4D trajectory based operations that are envisioned for the next generation air transportation system timeframe will significantly enhance the predictability of the air traffic demand, however the ability to accurately predict the impact of weather on the NAS is likely to persist into the future. To meet the TFM challenges of the future air transportation system, while improving current day operations, the Aviation Systems Division is pursuing a diverse research portfolio that is: (1) developing linear, non-linear, heuristic, and decomposition methods for designing flow management strategies; (2) translating weather data into air traffic management impacts; and (3) developing techniques for incorporating user preferences into traffic flow management.

Dynamic Airspace Configuration

While Traffic Flow Management involves managing the air traffic demand to mitigate imbalances in demand and capacity, Dynamic Airspace Configuration (DAC) accomplishes a similar task, although on a longer time horizon, by redefining and modifying the structure of the airspace. To accomplish this task, the Aviation Systems Division is conducting research to: (1) define the overall organization of the future airspace; (2) dynamically change the airspace to meet the forecasted demand; and (3) define the characteristics of a generic region of airspace. The first of these research areas is involved with creating new classes of airspace to take advantage of concepts and technologies such as self-separation and 4D-trajectories; the second area is involved with changing the airspace to accommodate uncertainties in the air traffic demand estimates. Finally, the third area is concerned with defining generic airspace regions that will promote interchangeability among facilities and controllers. The key challenges of the Aviation Systems Division's DAC research team is to develop and validate concepts and algorithms for designing new airspace configurations to accommodate user-preferred trajectories while dynamically reconfiguring airspace on a daily basis in response to changing weather patterns and security and environmental constraints.

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RELATED LINKS
ATD-3
Information on Airspace Technology Demonstration 3.
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DWR
Information on Dynamic Weather Routes.
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TBAS
Information on the Trajectory-Based Automation System.
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PUBLICATIONS
Strategic ATM Publications
Link to a list of papers available for download.
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Last Updated: September 13, 2017

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